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Wednesday, 16th August 2017

More Planning, more grief for families with learning disabled children, thoughts on hedges, the August lull and more.

The Tandridge Local Plan proposal for a Garden Village is out to consultation. Residents can comment on location and other factors. I have spoken and written about this before so will confine my remarks to a broader picture. The mad plan to build next to Chaldon is gone, thank goodness.

The local Residents’ Group on TDC have consistently challenged the Council on its use of the OAN- Objective Assessment of Need. This is a figure, arrived at by consultants following a government determined procedure, which indicates the number of houses which should be built in the District in the Plan Period, from 2013 till 2030. In fact the methodology for determining the OAN will change, according to a new government circular, at the end of March 2018. The new methodology will increase the perceived need by possibly 4000 homes. This is because the government is looking to ensure greater housing supply to drive greater affordability.

This might, one imagines, induce a deep sense of panic. How can the Leader of TDC keep his promise to surrender only 1% of the Green Belt, and still deliver that even greater number of homes?

He can’t, and won’t. All the District Council can do is identify sites where houses can be built; if there are not enough sites available to deliver 13,000 homes, then that number can’t be built. We need to move on from the consideration of the OAN to a realistic assessment of what housing can be delivered across the Plan Period, and how we can leverage the greatest amount of infrastructure advantage for us as a district.

So while I am not swept up in a combination of nimbyism and covert fears of perhaps a quite unsavoury kind (“they’ll all come from Croydon!”) which seems to affect some, I am concerned about the impact on Caterham and the potential use of the sites identified in the HELAA (Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment) in December. Caterham is full. The drains are broken and no-one seems to want to fix them soon. That is my line in the sand.

My major responsibility, it seems to me, is to use my position as a Parish, District and County Councillor to bang heads together (metaphorically) to ensure that there is coherent infrastructure planning. Funding for infrastructure does not go to the County, which has statutory responsibility for schools and roads, nor to the water company. Some goes to Parishes, some to the District. We need to pull all those agencies into one plan, one spend, one set of impacts. Allowing diverse and incoherent spend of CIL monies will betray the needs of residents. No pressure then!

Day provision for children with Learning Disabilities

You will recall my concern about the re-provision of services for children with learning disabilities which is resulting in the closure of The Beeches, a much-valued service in Reigate. I now learn that another much valued service in South Godstone which families are recommended to use is now not available. It seems Tandridge families may not have access to the services at all.

I have anonymised an anguished email I received this week and copied it below. I can hardly imagine the stress involved in fighting a system which should support families- instead it seems to block them and double or triple their stress. There is no answer from Officers or lead councillors of course as everyone is on holiday! An option not, alas, available to this family.

Today I was pointed towards some information released by YMCA East Surrey, the new holders of the funding for the short breaks provision for the Tandridge area. I have to say quite frankly I am appalled to see that, as a family living in (North Tandridge) I now need to travel some 14 miles (each way- 28 mile round trip x2) to access a play scheme for my son, who is partially verbal ASD and needs 1:1 supervision, as it will be held at the Sovereign Centre, Reigate. Not only is this not in Tandridge, and therefore not providing for those families, it is simply amalgamating the funding into the already heavily oversubscribed Yippee Club and not providing a like for like provision. I have heard rumour that this is temporary, however, there is no solid information about exactly how temporary this is.

I have previously looked into Yippee Club for my son but was told in no uncertain terms that the wait lists are long when your child needs a 1:1 member of staff, and this coupled with the later start time (10.00 instead of 9.30) and travel distance meant it was not really an option for us, but it appears it will now be our only option.

When you have a child with complex needs the options you have seem to get narrower and narrower as they get older and their needs and behaviour become harder to manage. There are plenty of lovely holiday clubs and activities locally, none of which are suitable for my son.”

I am angry at what has happened for these families but am afraid it might be too late to change this, as the procurement process which led to this nonsense is finished. Families are promised action until the end of November to resolve their concerns. I can only put pressure on to see that these concerns are addressed. I don’t know whether a resolution is possible. These families in Tandridge have been badly betrayed.

The August Lull

I have become increasingly concerned about what is effectively a “close down” in August because everyone is on holiday. Can’t we make a bit more effort to move things on? I am guilty myself as I am not running a councillor surgery this month. I promise next year to look at offering one in August.

Hedges

An appeal to residents who own hedges which border a highway or an alleyway. It is your responsibility to keep them trimmed so that access to the highway or alley is not narrowed. If for some reason you cannot manage to cut the hedge, the Parish Council can arrange it for a fee. Please remember that blind and disabled people use these byways all the time and if you don’t cut them pedestrians, and drivers where their view is obscured by the hedge, are severely inconvenienced. The offer is there.